Spelling is racist

I misspell things on this site and I really don't care

Historically speaking, public literacy is a rather young concept. Now days in first world countries we assume that everyone knows how to read and write, if we went back 100 years or so that assumption wouldn't be as safe to make, go back another 300 or so from that and it would be quite strange to assume that anyone you ran into on the street would know how to read. The ability to read and write was really something that was exclusive to the upper class (and if we really think about it the ability is no longer exclusive but the practice still very much is but that's a different topic). Now it should be well known that upper class individuals believe that there is a very strict right and wrong way to do certain things (they even made up a word for it but it's French so I can't spell it) and many of them get quite offended when you do things wrong even if you may think to yourself "If the salad fork is identical to the dinner fork, why should it matter if I use the wrong one?" Spelling is the same in a lot of ways, as long as you can tell what I'm saying what does it matter if I'm missing a letter.

Correct spelling doesn't exist in poor countries

Someting that I don't think I've talked about on this site is the fact that I'm multilingual, I of course speak English but I used to speak a fair amount of German, and since I served a mission in the Philippines I speak multiple Filipino languages. I'd like to speak about spelling in the context of these two areas of lingusitics.

German Spelling

You will never see a German spelling bee, they simply don't exist because every German word is spelled exactly as it sounds, and there really aren't any words that could have ambigious spellings. As long as you know how umlauts and essets work then you will have no problem spelling anyting in German. That of course does not mean that writing in German is not without its headaches, nouns in German all have to be capitalized and they play differently with verbs depending on wheter or not they are masculine or femmininte or nuteral or plural and that is all really a big pain in the butt for anyone who did not grow up speaking a language that had that going on. There are literally sixteen ways to say the word "the" in German, but that's grammar not spelling. Correct grammar is much more important than correct spelling, if you misspell soethiing then nitpicky educated people will be annoyed with you, but if you use incorrect grammar than even the illiterate won't understand what you're trying to say most of the time.

Filipino spelling

There is really no such thing as correct spelling in the Philippines, this may seem surprising to some but it really shouldn't when you look at the spellings of Philippines and Filipino, they can't even decide on what letter their country begins with, In the two years I spent in the Plilippines I probably saw the same word spelt a dozen different ways, depite that I could almost always understand what was being said. Spelling does not matter and there are a few points I'd like to make to emphasize this.

Formal Filipino spelling

Probably one of the best examples of accademic people being disconected from how people really live is in looking at Filipino language textbooks. Formally the letters J and E should not exist in Filipino languages, in fact I recently learned that while Filipinos use the same letters we do that they of course used to have their own alphabet and the letters J and E were nowhere to be found. Now pre-WW2 this was not much of a problem because in a language that had no use for the letter J there is no reason to have it, but after World War 2 this changed as both the Japanese and Allied forces had left behind a ton of Jeeps and Jeepneys soon became the most common form of mass transit in the Philippines, and because every Filipino learned quite quickly what a Jeep was there was no reason to make up a new word for it. So the question became how do you spell a word for which your language does nothave the right letters to make? The accedemics said that it should be spelled Diip since neither J or E are supposed to exist, but despite this it would be quite hard to find somewhere in the Philippies that spells Jeep Diip, up until the 1980s English was actually the national language in the Philippines, Filipinos know what J and E are so they'll use them in the real world.

Another side effect of Filipinos being taught English is that many words, like Jeep, in modern Filipino languages are borrowed from English, the Spanish historically also had a huge impact on the Philipines since they were the onew who brought Christianity, so there are also several words that are borrowed from Spanish (in fact the dialect they speak in Cebunga has more in common with Spanish than it does with Tagalog). Now when the lingusits aren't elitists and choose to recgognize and respect the origins of a word and trust people to understand it then there ins't much of a problem (we have no problem with this in English) but Filipino lingusts are elitists who make up spellings that nobody understands and words that nobody uses. If you were to give the average Filipino a Bilbe translated to their own dialect then they probably wouldn't understand it. I found it quite ironic that when reading scripture with Filipinos that they would often see what was supposed to be the word for building in their language, ask me what that word meant, and when I would say the English word building they would completely understand. Every Filipino I met who could read English prefered to read scripture and other books in English because they could understand the writing and how things were spelled better than they could understand writing in what was supposed to be their own language. While I was there the national government decided that math in schools should be taught with local vocabulary rather than English, I remember several kids who were in school at that time, who didn't even speak good English, complain about how confusing the math words in their own language were as opposed to the words in a language they didn't speak.

Formal spelling in the Philippines is a joke, if you want to be understood then don't bother spelling anything right.

Multiple Filipino languages

The other problem with Filipino spelling is the fact that there is no unified Filipiono language. Notice how in this discussion I haven't mentioned words like Cebuano or Tagalog. The fact is that if you are outside a big city in the Philippines you'll have a hard time traveling five miles without encountering people who speak diffreently than those who lived five miles before. The languages are similar enough for people to understand eachother well enough (although it is quite funny when a completely normal word in one language is offensive in another). Things are really only published in a handful of languages in the Philippines despite the fact that there are hundreds being spoken. Spelling is not the most important when the audience of your writing doesn't speak the language that you are writing to them in.

The Education Gap

Another interesting thing that I encountered in my time in the Philippines was a lot of people who couldn't read. Some of those people were people who never learned to read, but the majority of those people were people who couldn't read because they couldn't see, they know how to read but they can't do it anymore. This is quite the interesting thing to think about for someone like me who grew up in a developed nation, here when peoples' eyesight goes bad they go and get a pair of glasses because they need to be able to see so they can read for work, or read for fun, or read their daughter's facebook posts when she won't answer the phone. In a place like the Philippines if you are a fisherman, or a rice farmer, or a put-put driver, you really don't have to read anything, of course these people should be reading, everyone can benefit from reading, but they can live a perfectly normal life without needing to read anything, and these are also who sadly wouldn't be able to afford glasses if they wanted them. Why should anyone bother trying to spell anything right when a lot of the people they are surounded by people who don't need to read often enough for them to be able to tell if a word is spelled corectly or not.

Why I misspell things here

Now if you've been reading my stuff for long enough you probably notice that I misspell things quite often. Sometimes I misspell things on purpose, such as consoom, but a lot of the time I don't and the reason for that is that I write everything on this site in plain HTML using Vim, Vim does have a spell checker but I only recently remembered how to enable it and whenever I do use it I do it at the end of writing and use it just to edit. Maybe I'll try having it enabled from the start and seeing what sort of a difference that makes, but I'm not going to go back and fix this one because I typed most of this while I was riding a bus and I really don't care how many typos it has I'm impressed that I wrote this on a bus. I feel that as long as a point can be understood the syntax of how it is stated is not all that important. If I were to write the sentence "fast food is realy unhealthy" would my entire point be discredited because I misspelled really? Would it then be just to say that fast food is good for you? No, of course not, we should rise above the urge to nitpick and respect others even as they make mistakes. (although now that I can consistently remember how to use the spell checker in Vim I might start using it more often and you'll see much less misspellings because unlike whatever programs you're used to using, my configuration of Vim essentially blacks out any misspelled word making them really obnoxious to look at)